Alaska: Not too many tourists please


The so-called “excessive tourism” is causing problems in Alaska where authorities has unveiled a draft plan to deal with an increase in visitors at Mendenhall Glacier.

The glacier is about 13.6 miles (21.9 km) long located in Mendenhall Valley, about 12 miles (19 km) from downtown Juneau in the southeast area of Alaska. The glacier and surrounding landscape is protected as part of the 5,815 acres (2,353 ha) Mendenhall Glacier Recreation Area, a federally designated unit of the Tongass National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service released a plan calling for a new 7,000-square-foot (650-square-meter) visitor facility, a boat and dock system to ferry visitors across Mendenhall Lake, new trails and a mobile visitor center near the glacier, the Juneau Empire journal reported .

The objectives are to decrease crowding, enhance opportunities for locals, and “chase the ice,” meaning increase opportunity for visitors to get to the glacier. The Cruise Line Industry Association said a record-setting number of over 1 million cruise visitors are expected in Juneau in 2018.

About half of those visitors are expected to go to the glacier. Projections released earlier this year estimate a 200,000 visitor jump for Juneau in 2019, a 19 percent increase. The journal said that the idea is to create a natural flow of visitors to the new facility, where they’ll get information about what they want to do, and from there, disperse.

A nature wonder that attracts national and international tourism to Alaska are the ice caves. The term “ice cave,” it turns out, is sometimes used by geologists to describe a regular bedrock cave that features year-round ice, but as it’s usually meant when discussing Alaska, ice caves refer, well, to caves within a body of ice, namely a glacier.

These caves usually form as water flows through a glacier and melts out a passageway in the ice.

The Mendenhall Glacier ice caves, from “normal” bedrock caves is that they are, geologically speaking, quite temporary. Ice caves like the ones in Alaska may change substantially from year to year, lengthening, widening, or changing direction as meltwater continues to flow and the glacier moves downhill. Indeed, a glacier ice cave that was well-developed last year may even have disappeared come spring.

The fear of “excessive tourism” has not only arisen in Alaska a remote and enormous territory almost depopulated protected by laws. Sites on the planet that receive more and more tourists, such as Venice or Barcelona imposes regulations an quotas on its visitors. Professionals in the tourism sector are looking for urgent solutions.

Forecasts indicate that in 2030, there will be 1,800 million tourists in the world. Scientists and experts warn that this infinite growth is impossible in a space that is limited, which generates more and more visible conflicts. According to studies from 1995 to 2016, the number of international travelers has gone from 525 million to over 1,200 million thanks to low-cost airlines, and to tourists from growing markets.

2017 has been marked by a record increase of 7% in the number of tourists in the entire world.

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